WASHINGTON: Environmental groups like Greenpeace and other international NGOs working in India had sought US government intervention after their funding came under increased scrutiny of the Modi government, according to emails released by WikiLeaks.
The emails – hacked from the email account of John Podesta, who is the chairman of the Clinton Campaign – also indicate the global funding links of these NGOs, including those environmental groups opposing a massive mining project in Australia being undertaken by the Adani Group.
“Adani is very close to (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi --so this will be a delicate diplomatic challenge,” Sergio Knaebel, grant director of the Sandler Foundation, wrote in an email to Podesta on May 27, 2015, months after he left the White House to be the Chairman of the Clinton Foundation.
Based out of San Francisco, the Sandler Foundation till 2015 had charitable grants of more than USD 750 million to various NGOs globally working in areas like environmental protection, labour, education, and human rights.
The Sandler Foundation among other things have funded the Sunrise Project, which is opposing Adani's USD 21.7 billion mine project in Australia.
“The situation for NGOs in Australia is also getting pretty serious. The Abbot government has set its sights on organisations fighting the expansion of coal and for protecting the reef – and is looking to withdraw charitable status and out foreign donors in an effort to cast the NGO's work as foreign intervention.”
“Same playbook as India (and Canada),” Knaebel wrote in an email to Podesta.
Podesta did not make any commitment, but forwarded to Knaebel a series of email exchanges he had with Karen Sack from Ocean Unite, another environmental group.
Sack is currently the managing director of Washington-based Ocean Unite.
Before joining Ocean Unite, she was senior director for International Oceans at The Pew Charitable Trusts where she helped initiate the Global Ocean Commission.
Before that, she was the Head of Greenpeace International's Political and Business Unit and the Head of their international oceans campaign.
“What's going on in India is concerning. There are some interesting linkages between the coal industry there and in Australia,” Sack wrote on May 27, 2015.
“Adani — the coal billionaire from India is the person who plans to invest in building a coal port just near the Great Barrier Reef – which has people up in arms down under.
“The fascinating thing is that some of the big banks are refusing to invest in the port development project because of the potential risks to investors from the uncertainty,” she told Podesta in the email.
A day earlier, she sought the help of Podesta on the issue of Greenpeace asserting that because of the Indian government action it is on the verge of being closed.
“I have had a request from some colleagues at Greenpeace as they are facing a very serious situation in India,” Sack wrote.
“In a nutshell: an Indian Intelligence Bureau report was 'leaked' alleging Greenpeace India was responsible for a loss of 2-3 per cent of the country's GDP.
“Since then the Ministry of Home Affairs has kept up a relentless attack of allegations of irregularities in their registration and has now frozen all their bank accounts, both foreign and domestic, despite a Delhi High Court ruling there was no basis for doing so,” she said.
“The bottom line is that without some kind of intervention, they will have to close down by the end of June.
This has never happened to a Greenpeace office in the entire history of the organisation,” Sack wrote.
In the email, Sack said that Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace's International Executive Director from November 2009 until December 2015, was planning to get in touch with him on this issue.
“Kumi Naidoo was hoping to speak with you or to get advice on who might be able to help behind the scenes explaining to people close to the Prime Minister that their campaigns are about the issues of clean air and clean water and not personal and their office should not be forced to close because they have a different vision of India's future,” Sack said.
“Apparently, The Podesta Group has the contract for the Republic of India in the US, but Kumi has no way to reach Tony or another principal,” Sack said.
Podesta did not make any commitment but did say he would be happy to connect the two.
“Happy to put Kumi in touch with Tony, but the list ofpeople similarly situated seems to be growing,” Podesta wrote in his email indicating that Greenpeace is not the only NGO facing the problem in India.
Tony Podesta is the brother of John Podesta.
Podesta Group is one of the two lobbying firms for the Indian government since 2010. It received USD 700,000 per annum for its lobbying activists on behalf of the Indian government.